Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a fringe MVP candidate. Such honors rarely go to players on teams who are barely on the cusp of playoff consideration. But the veteran is certainly playing at an MVP level.
Ryan, now in his 11th season, is on pace to eclipse the numbers he put up in 2016, when he was the NFL's MVP and took the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
"One of the things I really admire about him is consistency," Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn said. "It's not a sexy word because it's not earned overnight. You got to put it in over and over again."
Ryan is hardly "sexy." He's quiet and unassuming by nature, never utters a word that can be used to motivate the opponent, and simply does his job at a high level each week.
"I wish you guys could come to practice and see the work he puts in out on the practice field all the way through to the game," Quinn said. "For him, yeah, he is playing consistently. But even past that, decision making, the accuracy, the toughness he displays. That's what I think of Matt. All the work he puts in to make sure that he's at his best for his team and it shows up every week."
Ryan did it again on Sunday against the Redskins. In need of a road win against a division-leading opponent, Ryan completed 26-of-38 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns. His only blemish was an interception that occurred when Calvin Ridley went the wrong way on a route, a transgression which earned the rookie a stare from Ryan that quietly told him not to let it happen again. The pick snapped a franchise-record 213 consecutive passes without an interception.
"He's very, very detailed," Ridley said. "Does everything at a high level. I try to put myself in a position to make sure I'm in the spots for him and make him look good and make myself look good."
This season, Ryan has completed 70.8 percent of his passes for 2,685 yards and 19 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. In 2016, he completed 69.9 percent and threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
"I feel good. I do," Ryan said. "I feel like I'm comfortable with the plans that we have. I'm prepared and ready to go week-in and week-out. I'm surrounded by excellent players and have a lot of trust in the guys around me to make plays and they've done that. That's exciting and it's fun to be a part of that."
Ryan notched the 50th 300-yard game of his career and passed for three or more touchdowns for the 35th time. The Falcons are 28-7 when Ryan throws for three or more touchdowns.
PK Matt Bryant missed his second game with a hamstring strain. He was replaced again by Giorgio Tavecchio, who kicked all five extra points and made the only field goal he tried, a 27-yarder in the fourth quarter. Bryant's status for the Cleveland game won't be known until later this week.
CB Robert Alford missed the Washington game with an ankle injury suffered earlier in the week in practice. He could return this week.
LS Josh Harris hurt his hand, but was able to participate in practice all week and played in the game. Harris last week signed a three-year contract extension.
WR Mohamed Sanu was limited in practice with a problematic hip injury, but the veteran was able to play and came away with four catches for 45 yards. He had a huge reception on one third down to keep a drive alive.
RB Tevin Coleman ran for 88 yards against the Redskins, his second-highest total of the season (107 yards against Carolina). Coleman also caught a pair of touchdown passes. It was the fourth multi-touchdown game of his career.
WR Julio Jones caught seven passes for 121 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season. Jones has five 100-yard games this season and has gone over the century mark in the last three games. Jones needs 13 yards to reach 10,000 for his career.